Can You Eat Essential Oils? – Man Versus Oils Investigates

Hey there oily dudes! Today I am going to write a post that, to be honest, I have been trying to work out how to write for a while. You see, in this post I am going discuss the minefield that is the consumption of essential oils. I say minefield as with a controversial topic such as essential oils there are the believers and non-believers of course. Research is limited and whether they actually work or not is something that is always open to great debate. But when you ask of “can you eat essential oils?”, even the believers/users cannot reach agreement.

Where do I stand?

Well as you know, I am a firm, if not still a little skeptical, user of essential oils for many things such as soothing sore muscles, shaving and of course, a little diffuser driven stress relief. I do not however put them in my food or drink. I never have and am not sure if I will in the future. But, as usual, I have tried to write from experience so I have been dabbling in this area too…

What does research tell us?

Can you eat essential oils - oils

I think the reason that I was struggling to work out how to write this post was that I just got so bogged down in the research that I couldn’t see the proverbial forest for the trees. I mean, the only oils I had considered eating were the types pictured above.  There is so much written about this topic, at times with so much venom that it was really hard to decipher. Those in the for column say that they have never felt better and those against will tell you essential oils are poisonous and should be avoided at all costs. The major companies – Young Living and DoTerra publish recipes for their oils in everything from drinks, to cooking (add 1 drop of cinnamon and 1 drop of lemon to an Indian Curry etc.) to medicinal interventions (put 2 drops of XYZ oil into a pill capsule and swallow each day to assist with XYZ).

I can tell you that in all my research, almost without fail, whenever I look for things to do with a particular type of essential oil (even the ‘hot‘ oils), I will find some sort of ingestion use within the page. Now, in all due respect to the ‘yessers’ and the ‘noers’, many give good arguments which are highly emotional and quite persuasive, but with little scientific fact. So, in an attempt to leave the emotion at the door, I tried to find some research.

What did I find? Well as usual, not much…

  • There are a lot of sites that infer that they have scientific backup but then tend to provide links to a doctor who has written for the national aromatherapy foundation of xxx.
  • There are a number of papers on the Pubmed site that have conducted studies that include the consumption of essential oils… Many outline the need for much further study or have been undertaken on mice. The only one I could find with some traction is in regards to peppermint essential oil for IBS – however I also found on a number of sites that peppermint can cause respiratory inflammation – it IS a strong oil.
  • WebMD does have a few articles written by doctors and almost all suggested steering clear of consumption of essential oils.

To be honest, the does sort of sit in with my findings when researching the benefits of essential oils for other purposes such as use on the skin or via a diffuser – which opponents will say is still ingesting oils into the body and proponents will argue that just because it is not fully researched that it does not mean it is not true.

Are they considered safe for consumption?

Can you eat essential oils - ok

The research really does not give us a true measure so let’s see what the governing bodies say:

The U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) – lists essential oils under the banner of Substances generally recognised as safe (Part 182, Subpart A, Sec 182.20). There is a big list there but not all oils are on it. I could not find anything where it states any that are not considered safe.

The Australian Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – lists essential oils as complimentary medicine products that “have not been subjected to the pre-registration evaluation of efficacy and adverse effects required for pharmaceuticals”. There are checks in place however to ensure they conform with statutory requirements such as child safety and poisons standards. I could not find any direct wording that stated that they were safe for consumption (I will of course update this page if I find it).

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency – makes no reference to the safety of essential oils consumption and explicitly lists essential oils as an exception from its list of permitted food additives.

Note: This is the information I found with some pretty extensive searching – however please comment below if you know of any pages within these agencies that outline information different to that which I have reported here.

What did I try?

As usual, I always try to speak to my posts from a place of experience so I did a little mansperimentation. Not a lot admittedly, but this is what tried:

  1. I put 1 drop of Lemon into my cold water bottle (800ml bottle)
  2. I cooked a beef spaghetti bolognese sauce with 2 drops each of Rosemary and Oregano – I was going to use Basil as well but couldn’t bring myself to do so after I smelled it.

What were the results?

Ok, I am just going to be honest here. I am not feeling it. The lemon water tasted ‘processed’ to me. It smelled like lemon and the taste was certainly there but I just didn’t love it. I will say here that my wife does drink this daily and is of the firm belief that it helps her not feel as hungry in the mornings – it is also very refreshing – her words not mine… haha.

Can you eat essential oils - citrus

As for the spaghetti sauce, I didn’t actually mention that I was doing my little mansperiment when I cooked it. Neither my wife nor son noticed and I ‘thought’ I could taste a difference but I am not sure I could. There was a hint of aroma, especially from the oregano but not in the taste. I also missed the fresh herbs that I normally use.

My final verdict: I could not see enough in my admittedly short mansperimentation to make me want to change my approach here. At the end of the day my philosophy is that if you want lemon in your drink or rosemary or other herbs in your food, then use the real thing.

Note: I fed this to my son without thinking as I am really not an advocate of feeding essential oils to kids but as a once off, I don’t think there is any harm done.


So there you have it, I am not totally sure that I have answered any questions here apart from the usual results that there is not a lot of real, concrete proof into the safety of consuming essential oils. I do know that I am not really an advocate and tend to avoid reference to eating or drinking them in my posts. That said, I do not have any real proof that I shouldn’t be doing it either so for me it is a pure taste and lifestyle preference – as is my use of oils for other purposes in the first place.

How do you feel about the subject (he asks with some trepidation haha)? Please comment below and I will do my best to respond.

Until next time, and as always

Have fun


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